Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee basketball knocked off Ole Miss, 63-59, in Oxford to open up SEC play in the win column Wednesday evening.
The Vols fell behind 10 points in the first half before slowly crawling back into the game and holding on late to secure the win.
Santiago Vescovi’s game-high 22 points highlighted a strong night for the senior shooting guard and Jonas Aidoo’s defensive and rebounding efforts proved critical in the win.
Here’s everything Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said about the game.
“I thought the first half they came out very aggressive, hard, tough-nosed. That’s Kermit’s teams. They knocked us back and we had a lot of defensive breakdowns in that half. Maybe as many as we’ve had all year. But you’ve got to give that to them. They run really good offense. Our switches weren’t clean. A couple breakdowns we can’t have. I thought the second half, it was much better, much more like we want to play defense. Can’t say enough about Jahmai Mashack on the game. He didn’t shoot a shot. The job that he did to work a terrific player in Matthew Murrell, it’s hard to play a player like that, and what he did. And Santi started on him, but it was mostly Jahmai. Matthew is a terrific player and he didn’t get a lot of great looks at it, and he can make then when he does get them. But overall, second half, much better. Jonas Aidoo, second half, did a great job around the rim. Think he had a career-high rebounding the ball. He affected a lot of shots in there. Again, we just have to get better on offense. I think our guards are turning down too many shots, making it hard getting late in the clock, and allowing our guys to go rebound the ball.”
On the importance of Santiago Vescovi giving the offensive output he did
“He was terrific. We got the ball where we wanted it, but we’ve got to have those guys finish those. They’re not easy shots, but again, it’s understanding what we told them. They’re going to come quick. We’ve got the position where we wanted it. But Santi, he impacts a game in so many ways. That’s one thing we talked about last night, how you can never score a basket but impact the game. What (Vescovi) does screening, cutting, his defense, he’s a terrific player. He impacts the game every single night, even if he’s not making shots. I told him at the end, him and Tyreke have to do a better job for us on the free-throw line. But again, I thought Zakai settled down. First half, I thought he was being a little bit too aggressive. Really, he’s wanting to get it in there, which we want him to do, but those guys aren’t finishing. We’ve got to move on to the next thing.
“But overall, it’s what you would expect in the start of the SEC (schedule). It’s a dog fight. I’m standing here talking to you, I’m looking at the Kentucky-Missouri game, (Kentucky is) down nine. That’s just the way it is. Everybody starts new, everybody gets a new lease on life. Starting over. I’ve got so much respect for Kermit. His teams always, it seems like every time we play them, it’s a game like this. Every single time. I thought we handled their 1-3-1 that they like to throw out there well enough. At the end, we handled what we needed to do, we just need to make our free throws.”
On what’s going well for Jonas Aidoo right now
“I told him we don’t need you shooting more jump shots. We don’t need that. We need you to want to go inside. And he can score in there when he gets his position. He’s got a great touch. But he does, he’s long. He affects a lot of things. The second half, I thought he was terrific in the lane on the defensive end. If he gets where he needs to be, these guys will find him. He does have some great hands. And he’s learning that people are going to go at him, which he’s starting to learn how he needs to get focused in every game, knowing that teams are going to try to get him out on the perimeter some. And (Ole Miss has) a team that drives the ball .They shot the ball well. They had some guys that made some big shots for them tonight that aren’t necessarily what we would call their best shooters. But they did. And early in the game they were definitely driving our post players. They felt like they could spread the court and get going downhill. Again, Jonas did adjust. That’s one thing I told him, you’re going to have to adjust and he did.”
On if Jonas Aidoo will have a bigger role moving forward
“Yesterday, I actually started playing him with the first group because we haven’t done that enough with he and Tobe (Awaka). Tobe didn’t practice yesterday. He turned his ankle the day before. But we are starting where he gets more reps with the first group. But if he keeps doing what he is going to do, there is no doubt that he is going to play a much different role. That is the great thing about the game and a season, roles change. I don’t know what we are going to look like in the end, but the one thing about it is we have a lot of guys that I think — again, Jahmai Mashack, makes you think we have to get him out there. I don’t particularly want to play offense/defense, but when we’ve got to do it, we can’t have any weak links on the defensive end. That is guys who are, again, terrific coaches in this league attack matchups. We have to have guys that will take that challenge on and not want to be a guy that people can go after.”
On Olivier Nkamhoua getting good shots by working for positioning
“He did (his work early). I told him, he has to learn to fight that cardio toughness. He has to have it. His fourth foul was a tough one where he didn’t do his work early in full-court transition to open the court up and let other guys drive and take him all the way to the basket. He is going to get better. We have a lot of confidence in him. I think the more he sees it, the more he will improve with it.”
On what they need to do to get Tyreke Key more aggressive offensively
“We have seen it. You guys have watched it, too. Some games — that is where we have to get consistent. We know where we want shots from. It is tough as a player. You feel it. You know when you have got something. Santi tonight, he kept driving in there. I know why he drives because they chase him into the lane. We keep telling him, it is great what he does. He picked up a charge tonight where he stopped short. Tyreke has to believe in his shot. We need him to do that. He is not being guarded like Santi. Santi, I know why he turns it up because they are on his heels and making him do it. He is a guy that we need. We need Julian (Phillips) to make some shots for us. He had a great look at a three earlier tonight. That is what is exciting. Those guys are better than what they have played up to this point and it is consistency. We have to get it. We have to know where the shots are coming from because we do have a group of guys that will rebound the ball.”
On Jonas Aidoo rebounding
“It is great. What we need is we need him every night to do it. It is stuff that we tell him he can do. With his length, he gets his hands up and he affects a lot of different things. He gets his hands on it, he has to be stronger and hang onto it because people do try to go attack him when he gets it. If we could Uros (Plavsic) to understand that part of the game, that we need him when he is in the game to play defense and rebound. I think O will do it. Tobe is going to do it. Somebody showed me a stat the other day that when Tobe is in the game, we rebound 56% of our misses. Those are the guys that put us a coaching staff in a position that we know we have to get them on the court. If we could get everybody, four guys, understanding that, then we could really have something.”